U.S. to Com­plete Rede­ploy­ment of Geor­gian Forces from Iraq

By John J. Kruzel
Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice

WASHINGTON, Aug. 11, 2008 — The U.S.-assisted rede­ploy­ment of Geor­gian troops from Iraq to their home coun­try should be com­plet­ed today, a Pen­ta­gon spokesman said.

Amer­i­can mil­i­tary air­craft began shut­tling the brigade of Geor­gian forces yes­ter­day, as clash­es with Russ­ian forces inten­si­fied since fight­ing broke out last week in the break­away region of South Osse­tia in Geor­gia, a for­mer Sovi­et repub­lic.

The U.S.-provided trans­port of the 2,000-strong con­tin­gent adheres to an agree­ment that U.S. and Geor­gian gov­ern­ment offi­cials arranged before Russ­ian tanks and troops crossed Georgia’s bor­der on Aug. 8, Pen­ta­gon Spokesman Bryan Whit­man said today.

“We are ful­fill­ing our agree­ment with the Geor­gian gov­ern­ment that in an emer­gency we would assist them in rede­ploy­ing their troops,” Whit­man said. “We are hon­or­ing that com­mit­ment and we are fol­low­ing through with that.”

At the same time, U.S. mil­i­tary com­man­ders in Iraq are adapt­ing to the depar­ture of Geor­gian troops, which pri­mar­i­ly occu­pied infantry roles and rep­re­sent­ed the third-largest for­eign con­tin­gent in Iraq.

“Com­man­ders on the ground are mak­ing nec­es­sary adjust­ments to mit­i­gate any of the impact of the loss of Geor­gian forces,” said Whit­man, who declined to spec­i­fy where Geor­gian troops were land­ing, but added that the con­tin­gent is not being sent direct­ly into com­bat against Rus­sia.

Army Maj. Gen. Mark Hertling, the com­man­der of Multi­na­tion­al Divi­sion North and 1st Armored Divi­sion, said the rede­ploy­ment of Geor­gian forces will affect some U.S. com­mands more than oth­ers.

“Quite frankly, these were good sol­diers, but we’ve been able to adapt at the bat­tle space to account for their loss,” he told Pen­ta­gon reporters today via video tele­con­fer­ence from For­ward Oper­at­ing Base Spe­ich­er, near Tikrit, Iraq.

With rough­ly 80 Geor­gian troops depart­ing from his con­tin­gency, Hertling said their absence will not have as sig­nif­i­cant an impact on his unit as it will in areas of oper­a­tion like Multi­na­tion­al Divi­sion Cen­tral, where the for­eign troops were split across sev­er­al U.S. brigades.

Mean­while, some 130 U.S. mil­i­tary per­son­nel serv­ing as train­ers to nation­al forces in Geor­gia will remain in the war-torn coun­try, Whit­man said. He added that all U.S. train­ers there are safe and account­ed for, and that present­ly there are no plans to remove them from Geor­gia.

Geor­gia declared its inde­pen­dence from the then-Sovi­et Union in 1991. How­ev­er, many South Osse­tia res­i­dents con­tin­ue to pro­fess Russ­ian alle­giance.

The sit­u­a­tion was already tense when Russ­ian tanks and troops crossed the bor­der into South Osse­tia, where they were aid­ed by region­al sep­a­ratists. Fight­ing esca­lat­ed a day lat­er in and around Tskhin­vali, South Ossetia’s cap­i­tal, as Russ­ian air­craft were report­ed to have bombed that city, as well as parts of Geor­gia.

Pres­i­dent Bush and oth­er world lead­ers have called for a peace­ful res­o­lu­tion to end the fight­ing, which has broad­ened beyond the break­away regions of South Osse­tia and Abk­hazia, accord­ing to media reports today.

In Bei­jing to view the start of the Sum­mer Olympic Games host­ed by Chi­na, Pres­i­dent Bush today denounced fight­ing in Geor­gia.

“I said this vio­lence is unac­cept­able,” Bush said dur­ing an inter­view with NBC. “I not only said it to [Russ­ian Prime Min­is­ter] Vladimir Putin, I’ve said it to the pres­i­dent of the coun­try, Dmitriy Medvedev.

“I expressed my grave con­cern about the dis­pro­por­tion­ate response of Rus­sia and that we strong­ly con­demn bomb­ing out­side of South Osse­tia,” he said.

The Bush admin­is­tra­tion has been engaged with both sides of the con­flict in attempts to bro­ker a cease­fire that would return forces to pre-inva­sion lev­els, the pres­i­dent said.

“Hope­ful­ly this will get resolved peace­ful­ly,” he said, adding: “There needs to be an inter­na­tion­al medi­a­tion there for the South Osse­tia issue.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)